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From the Early Education

Level of Education

A preschool is an educational establishment offering early childhood education to children from the ages of 3 to 6, before they proceed to primary school at age 7.In Malaysia, there are no fixed rules on when a child needs to start preschool education but majority would start when the child turns 5 years old.

Although guidelines from the Ministry of Education serve as the base for curriculum for children 4-6 years of age, there is no specific curriculum guideline for children under the age of 4. There are mandatory training and certification for principals and teachers before they may operate a preschool. The training covers lessons on child psychology, teaching methodologies, and other related curricula on childcare and development.

Preschool education is mainly provided by private for-profit preschools, though some are run by the government or religious groups. Certain primary schools have attached preschool sections too. Government-run preschools are generally located in rural areas; emphasizing socio-emotional development. Whereas profit-based private preschools are usually found in urban areas, and focus heavily on academic achievement.

Registered preschools are subjected to zoning regulations and must comply with other regulations such as health screening and fire hazard assessment. Many preschools are located in high density residential areas, where normal residential units compliant to regulations are converted into the schools.

Government-run early education programmes are basically free-of-charge, but private early education programmes charge fees and their administrators are free to choose the curriculum and language of instruction to be used in their establishments.

There are two main categories of preschool in Malaysia – play school and kindergarten.

Play School

A play school (also known as play group) is an informal nursery group taking preschool children in half-day sessions, providing young children with many group activities. The objective is to allow them to learn more efficiently and gain more knowledge through play-based activities such as dramatic play, art, and social games.

Although some toddlers join play school as early as age 2+, the majority of children attending play schools are from ages 3 to 4. Due to the busy schedule of working parents, a number of playschools provide daycare service.

Some nurseries and kindergartens in Malaysia conduct play schools (play groups) as part of their programmes. However, there are play schools operating as independent early education centres. A growing number of drama & speech centre, art learning studio and music schools for children are considered as ‘play schools’ too, as these institutions are developing more fun and interactive classes for young children.

Play schools carry the important role of encouraging young children to explore their interests and learning social interaction skills. Hence, it is important for parents to pick a suitable school for their children.

Due to the accessibility of information, various playschools are mainly found in Kuala Lumpur, Klang Valley and other major cities in Malaysia.


In Malaysia, kindergarten is a non-formal and flexible education programme for young children aged 4 to 6 years old. Children enroll into the programme at 4 or 5 years old, depending on parents' preference. Kindergartens in the country are either government funded or private-run.

Kindergarten classes conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and other government agencies enable under-privileged children from lower income families the access to kindergarten education for free or at a minimal charge. Private kindergartens cater for children from high and middle-income families. The fees charged by these kindergartens vary and are largely determined by market standards.

All kindergartens have to abide by the curriculum guidelines set by the MOE, except for the International or Expatriate Schools that has their own syllabus. The aim of kindergarten education is to specifically develop children’s skills in the following aspects:

Social skill

Focus on children’s interaction with the environment and the people in their surroundings, development of positive self-concept, discipline, social responsibilities, and positive attitudes towards learning.

Intellectual skill

Emphasize physical environment, the concepts of space, numbers, alphabets, and prerequisites for writing, reading and language competencies.

Physical skill

Focus on the physical activities that involve co-ordination of the various parts of the body such as the head, hand, leg, eye and fingers.

Aesthetical aspects

Train children to express themselves through their hand-made creations, drawings, music and movement.

Primary Schools in Malaysia

The three main types of primary schools in Malaysia are Public Primary Schools, Private Primary Schools and International Schools (Primary/ Elementary). Education in Public Primary Schools and Private Primary School begins at age 7 and lasts for 6 years, referred to as Standard 1 to 6.

Public Primary Schools

There are two categories of public primary schools in Malaysia, namely the Malay-medium National Schools [Sekolah Kebangsaan, SK] and the non-Malay-medium National-type Schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan, SJK).National-type Schools, also known as "vernacular schools" are further divided into Chinese National-type Schools [Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Cina), SJK (C)] and Tamil National-type Schools [Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan (Tamil), SJK (T)].

SJK(C) uses Mandarin and simplified Chinese writing as the main medium of teaching. The main language medium of teaching for SJK (T) is Tamil. Malay and English are compulsory subjects in all schools. All schools use the same syllabus for non-language subjects regardless of the medium of instruction. The teaching of the Chinese language is compulsory in SJK(C), and Tamil language is compulsory in SJK (T).

Additionally, a National School must provide the teaching of Chinese or Tamil language, as well as indigenous languages wherever practical, if the parents of at least 15 pupils in the school request that the particular language to be taught.

Private Primary Schools

Private primary schools in Malaysia offer primary schooling from Standard 1 to Standard 6, follow the Primary School National Curriculum (KBSR), and prepare students for the Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination.Besides core subjects of the National Curriculum, some private primary schools offer additional subjects to enhance the student’s learning process.

International Schools (Primary/ Elementary)

International Schools (Primary/ Elementary) teach an international curriculum using English as a medium of instruction. The main types of international curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education are the British curriculum, the Australian curriculum, the American curriculum and the Canadian curriculum.

Although these schools mainly cater for the needs of the international community, such as the children of the staff of foreign embassies, foreign businesses and international organisations, admissions are open to Malaysian students.

Secondary Schools in Malaysia

The three main categories of secondary schools in Malaysia are Public Secondary Schools, Private Secondary Schools and International Schools (Secondary). Education in Public Secondary Schools and Private Secondary Schools lasts for 5 years, referred to as Form 1 to 5.

Form1 to Form 3 is known as Lower Secondary, while Form 4 and 5 are known as Upper Secondary. Most students who had completed primary education are admitted to Form 1. Students from national-type primary schools have the additional requirement to obtain a minimum C grade for the Malay subjects in UPSR, failing which they will have to attend a year-long transition class, commonly called "Remove" (Kelas Peralihan), before proceeding to Form 1.

Public Secondary Schools

The main types of public secondary school in Malaysia are the National Secondary Schools (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) and National-type Secondary Schools (Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan, SMJK).Other types of government (public) secondary schools include Technical Schools (Sekolah Menengah Teknik), Fully Residential Schools and MARA Junior Science College (Maktab Rendah Sains MARA).These schools use Malay as the main medium of instruction. Students sit for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) or Malaysian Certificate of Education examination after completing Form 5.

Private Secondary Schools

Private primary schools and Private Religious Secondary Schools in Malaysia offer secondary education from Form 1 to Form 5, follow the Secondary School National Curriculum (KBSM), and prepare students for the SPM (Malaysian Certificate of Education) examination.

International Schools (Secondary)

International Schools (Secondary) teach an international curriculum using English as a medium of instruction. The main types of international curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education are the British curriculum, the Australian curriculum, the American curriculum and the Canadian curriculum.

Although these schools mainly cater for the needs of the international community, such as the children of the staff of foreign embassies, foreign businesses and international organisations, admissions are open to Malaysian students. These schools prepare students to sit for an external international examination like IGCSE 'O' level, GCE 'A' levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma, Grade 1 to 12, etc.

Tertiary Education in Malaysia

After the SPM, students from public secondary school would have a choice of either studying Form 6 or the matriculation (pre-university). If they are accepted to continue studying in Form 6, they will also take the Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia (STPM) or Malaysian Higher School Certificate examination (its British equivalent is the GCE 'A' Levels examination). .

STPM is regulated by the Malaysian Examinations Council. Although it is generally taken by those desiring to attend public universities in Malaysia, it is internationally recognised and may also be used, though rarely required, to enter private local universities for undergraduate courses.

Some students undertake their pre-university studies in private colleges. They may opt for programmes such as the British 'A' Levels programme, the Canadian matriculation programme or the equivalent of other national systems. More recently, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme is becoming more popular as a pre-university option. After completing their pre-university courses, students continue with their undergraduate studies.

Certificate, Diploma & Bachelor’s Degree

There are two groups of education institutions that provide higher education in Malaysia. They are public institutions which consist of public universities, polytechnics, community colleges and teacher training institutes; and private institutions which consist of private universities, private university colleges, foreign university branch campuses and private colleges.

There are currently 20 public universities, 30 polytechnics, 72 community colleges, 50 private universities and university colleges, 6 foreign university branch campuses and about 400 private colleges offering a wide variety of certificate, diploma and bachelors’ degree courses.

Qualifications awarded:
Community Colleges
• Awarding certificates
• Awarding degrees, advanced diplomas, diplomas and special skills certificates
Private Universities and University Colleges
• Awarding their own degree qualifications
Private Colleges
• Awarding internal certificates and diplomas
• Conducting foreign university collaboration degree programs (degree conferred by foreign universities)
• Preparing students for external professional examinations
Foreign University Branch Campuses
• Awarding degree from foreign host university